18 Apr 2024

Fall Creek Connect, the new local training format for blueberry growers


Fall Creek, a global leader in blueberry genetics and plants, has a strong and established presence in Europe, where it operates two nurseries (Aznalcázar in Spain and Meterik in the Netherlands) that not only supply plants to growers but also serve as training and knowledge hubs.

Andrea Pergher, Sales and Technical Support Manager at Fall Creek, recently launched a new format of engagement with blueberry growers for the first time in Italy.

How did this new initiative start?

We thought it would be interesting for our Italian growers to create a specific opportunity for professional networking and education. Thus, Fall Creek Connect was born, a series of events with its inaugural meeting for Italy held in Valtellina (Lombardy) last February.

Fall Creek Connect, the new local training format

What is the purpose of Fall Creek Connect?

While the events in Spain and the Netherlands are designed for large European growers, we saw the need to provide local growers with an equally effective opportunity closer to them and in their local language. We have already held meetings in Turkey and Georgia; on February 29th, it was Italy's turn.

How does a Fall Creek Connect meeting unfold?

In Valtellina, we prioritized field experience, replacing classrooms and presentations with visits to farms, where growers could see, learn, and exchange information firsthand.

What were the topics of discussion at this first training session?

Given the winter season, we primarily focused on pruning, which is a crucial phase in the proper and effective management of blueberry cultivation. Hands-on experience helps to concretely understand how to manage the various scenarios encountered in the field, complementing the theoretical training found in textbooks and online. 

Pruning a blueberry plantation in full production requires between 150 and 200 hours per hectare and is therefore a central activity for the farmer.

In particular, we referred to the pruning of the main Fall Creek varieties in the area: Blue Ribbon, Top Shelf, Valor, Cargo, and Last Call. While the general principles of pruning are common to different cultivars, other characteristics make each variety's pruning different, particularly the vigor and shape of the plant. 

By visiting various productive installations throughout the day, we were able to provide specific guidance for each type.

Who participated in the event?

We invited our main Italian growers, and the attendance was calibrated to give everyone the opportunity to participate actively, interact, and ask questions on a wide range of topics that went beyond pruning to cover key agronomic and cultivation aspects. 

In total, there were about 50 growers from different Italian regions, including Lombardy, Veneto, Trentino, and Tuscany.

The Fall Creek Connect event in Valtellina saw the participation and contribution of the Cooperativa Vitivinicola di Montagna (a partner of Fall Creek for the local distribution of blueberry plants) and the Fondazione Fojanini di Studi Superiori di Sondrio.

The Fojanini Foundation is an experimental center where 10 technicians deal with the main agricultural crops of the Valtellina.

Italian Berry interviewed Luca Folini, head of the fruit sector at the Foundation, who has organized the event together with Fall Creek.

How has this event been received among blueberry producers in the Valtellina?

Our area has believed in blueberries from the beginning: as evidence of this, there are still blueberry plants in Valtellina that are 25-30 years old and in full production. Currently, there are about 180 hectares planted, with almost 160 in full production. Valtellina enjoys optimal conditions both in terms of climate and soil, which has a pH of 5-5.5, making it ideal for blueberry cultivation in open fields.

Producers have responded with great interest to this meeting, which has proved useful and educational for all participants.

The Fojanini Foundation has identified Fall Creek as a primary partner: how has this relationship developed?

Nowadays, almost all the blueberries planted in Valtellina come from Fall Creek, the world's leading blueberry nursery. We are advising producers to replace old varieties, including Duke, with Blue Ribbon, Valor, Last Call, Cargo, and Top Shelf. 

In this process, we are also looking to the future, and participants in the Fall Creek Connect event were able to see our experimental field where there is a showcase of all Fall Creek varieties, including the newest selections not yet available on the market.

This event was a natural development of the partnership with Fall Creek: during the Fall Creek Connect event Andrea Pergher, head of technical support Italy, demonstrated professionalism and the ability to understand and solve the needs of blueberry producers in a concrete way.

The day was also enriched by Operazione Mato Grosso, a no-profit organization that provides numerous training experiences to young people through volunteer work for the poorest. O.M.G. provided catering, which was a pleasant social occasion, greatly appreciated by the growers, who also valued the social commitment and O.M.G.'s ability to involve young volunteers in favour of missions in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Bolivia.

Contacts: Andrea Pergher - tel. +39 342 843 1457 | Follow Fall Creek on Linkedin

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